New confectionery shop with a sweet story brings childhood nostalgia to Banbury town centre

A family has opened their own sweet shop in Banbury town centre as an homage to childhood nostalgia and their greatly-missed late grandmother.

Tuesday, 2nd July 2019, 11:51 am
Sheila Dempster and John Clarke run Sheila's Sweets on Parson's Street

Sheila's Sweets opened in the former florists on Parson's Street on June 22, and instantly attracted the attention of passers-by with its shelves filled with colourful goodies.

Confectionery favourites from the 1950s to the noughties are on offer as well as all the latest sweets, chocolates, cakes and drinks.

Claire Dempster decided to set up the shop with her husband Brendan and son, John Clark, in memory of her mother, Sheila Murphy, who had a very large sweet tooth but died in 2011.

Sheila Dempster and John Clarke run Sheila's Sweets on Parson's Street

"As a kid I can remember going into the little shops for pick 'n' mix and she loved her sweets and it just seemed so fitting to share her memories and her positivity about sweets and family," she said.

"We just named it Sheila's Sweets as it keeps her alive in a really lovely but also sad way.

"People are coming in and saying, 'hi Sheila,' and to begin with I was quite upset but now I'm like, 'Sheila's my mum she's not here today.'"

The family moved to Banbury from Poole, Dorset, in August last year - 'I gave up the sea for Banbury' - as Brendan needed to move for work.

The classic sweet shop jars filled with goodies at Sheila's Sweets

With no previous experience of running a sweet shop, Claire decided to use her inheritance from her parents, her father Paul Murphy passed away in 2017, to open Sheila's Sweets.

"We weren't sure what to do as you get given this inheritance and it's like, 'all that money what do I do?' Rather than waste it, I thought do something for her," Claire said.

"This is probably something she would've done to retire, if that makes sense, as it's something she loved."

The first few weeks of trading have been good so far, especially now the weather has improved, with Saturday being particularly busy - although Claire's beautiful window display melted in the sun.

All the penny sweets your heart desires in Sheila's Sweets

Sheila's Sweets has all the delicious, sugar filled treats you can imagine, from bon bons and toffees to gummy milkshakes and Jawbreakers.

The scales weigh to the penny so little and big kids can fill their pick 'n' mixes knowing exactly how much they will cost and take as much time as they like.

"We've got the little 10p sweets that kids like and quite often mum will come in, looking around at what the kids can have and she's transported to being a kid herself, which is wonderful," she said.

A pick 'n' mix for every day of the week is also in the works, particularly on Choose-days, plus pre-made bags for people with allergies.

Sheila's Sweets literally has buckets full of treats

And if they are missing your favourite candies, Claire said they will do their best to get it in stock and put it in the requests section - if they are popular enough they will become mainstays.

"This is hopefully community-based as people are coming in and asking me if I can stock, so if I can get it, we're posting it all over Facebook and Twitter," she said.

"That's why we're not fully stocked as I only bought best sellers at the wholesalers because I wanted people to choose, it's their shop."

Claire is acutely aware of the nutritional concerns some people may about sweets, and advocates customers have them in moderation.

All of the sweets will also soon have all of the ingredients on to make it as clear as possible for customers and to abide by the anticipated new 'Natasha's law' - after Natasha Ednan-Laperouse died following an allergic reaction to a Pret A Manger baguette.

Sheila's Sweets is just the latest new shop to open in the town centre with Parson's Street in particular seeing investment, but Claire admits to not knowing about the Old Town for a while once she moved to Banbury.

Cakes made of sweets?! I'll take the lot.

But now she loves being a part of the Old Town and is eager to share her love of sweets with the rest of Banbury, something her mum would have been proud of.

"I'm hoping that parents will bring their kids in and share the same memories that I have with my mum and generations after generations can do the same as we've kind of lost the loop at the moment.

"I don't remember the last time I was able to go into a sweet shop and pick up some of the sweets I would ask for."

To find out more about Sheila's Sweets, head to its Facebook page Sheila's Sweets.

Who knew there were this many different types of Haribo?
Claire and John outside Sheila's Sweets